USTA pro circuit returns to Knoxville

KNOXVILLE, Tenn. (WVLT) -- The Knoxville Challenger, a USTA Pro Circuit event, returns to Knoxville Nov. 6-11 at the University of Tennessee Goodfriend Indoor Tennis Center.

The Knoxville Challenger, presented by Pilot Flying J, is the largest professional men’s tennis tournament in our region. The series is designed to provide opportunities to aspiring, young professional tennis players to advance to the top levels of the game. Players include pros beginning their careers, pros trying to improve their ATP rankings and top-ranked junior players.

Players will compete for a share in a $75,000 purse.

The Official Player Acceptance List was released this week. Eight players on the list have held top-100 rankings in the past. At least 15 different countries are represented in this tournament. The top-ranked player, Marcel Granollers (ESP), was ranked as high as #19 in the world in singles and #4 in doubles. In 2014, the Spaniard reached the doubles final of both the US Open and French Open.

Other notable entries, include:

Thanasi Kokkinakis (AUS): Kokkinakis is a rising young star who is coming back from injuries. He beat Roger Federer this year in the second round of the Miami Open.

Jared Donaldson (USA): Donaldson cracked the top-50 in the world earlier this year before falling back after some close losses.

2016 Knoxville Challenger champion, Michael Mmoh (USA), returns this year after winning back-to-back Challenger events and beating two players ranked in the top-40.

The top-22 players on the player acceptance list get direct entry into the main draw. Four additional wild cards will be selected, two by the tournament director and two rising young Americans selected by the USTA. The four semifinalists from the qualifying tournament will also earn spots in the main draw.

The Knoxville Challenger benefits the Helen Ross McNabb Center, a regional not-for-profit provider of behavioral health care in East Tennessee.